Op-Ed: Leaders should learn how to handle Gen Z with special gloves

By Ben Ssebuguzi

What does Gen Z slang stand for? Gen Z stands for Generation Z or Zoomers.It refers to the generation after millennials and encompasses anyone born between 1995-2010.

Our neighbourhood in Kenya has dominated the news for experiencing untold misery as Young Kenyans have set the nation ablaze with fiery protests making the Head of State President William Ruto withdraw the Financial Bill 2024 which the young people alleged the tax regime was not favourable.

Kenya’s Gen Z has also been dubbed as Gen Z protests and TikTok uprising, after a popular social media platform from which it emanated. The only good thing about this protest in Kenya is that this time around it is not driven by political or ethnic undertones which has united Kenyans for the first time when they are pushing for common interests.

The Generation Z protests were quieter than the 2007-2008 – which targeted ethnic violence which was directly mainly against the Kikuyu tribe of President Mwai Kibaki who had won the second Presidential term in 2007. This has made Generation Z crush down the deadly tribalistic system which is synonymous with Kenyan politics.

It is remembered that in the 2007 protests, police shot hundreds of violent demonstrators, including a few in front of TV news cameras. The deadly riots which happened in Mombasa, Eldoret, Kericho, Kisumu, Nakuru and parts of Nairobi brought the country to stand still as a result of the violence of protests which were characterised by rooting people’s property and business. This also jeopardized the transit of goods that feed over 200m people in the neighbouring countries since Mombasa acts as a feed for the hinterland. This prompted the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to arrive in Kenya and brought the two sides of Raila Odinga and President Kibaki to the negotiating table.

Why should politicians be cautious when addressing these youths’ demands? When you analyse critically, it is imperative to first assess their characters as young educated tech-savvy populations who are majority in African countries, which makes them start revolts which even influence decision making.

According to the National Institute of Health, Generation Z falls under puberty age. In this age, there is early sexual activity and violence. American Psychological Association confirm that the risks of earlier puberty are associated with more depressive disorder and substance use of disorders among others. This calls for leaders to start designing policies which a friendly and compatible with the character and demands of the young people.

Furthermore, Our leaders should put in place regular robust and vigorous communication channels to speak to the youths about government interventions and programs in place to help them how to create wealth, and jobs and boost household Incomes given their pertinent challenges like unemployment. I thank President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni for being aware of how to tame the swelling estrogen and testosterone in young people by constantly being in touch with them through regular missives to Bazukkulu.

General Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has ably used social media as a powerful leadership tool like Twitter formerly X to share his opinion but also listen to their open collaborative efforts in condemning graft. A case in point is how he allowed the popular Parliament exhibition to which young people have questioned how their leaders spend money from the public coffers without remorse!

In response, the President carried out investigations and tasked the justice system to arrest some parliamentarians to establish the truth and many are under trial charged on cases related to corruption. This shows an increase in citizenry participation in the development of their country.

The President being aware that the transition period of young people in puberty is always fast in thinking and responding. He has put in place alternative avenues in his Office of National Chairman of NRM where young people have often sought sanctuary. Office of the National Chairman of NRM (ONC) was officially opened to the young people to take on their pressing concerns. We have seen ONC addressing land grabbing, and recently received concerns from the fishing community on top of sponsoring public events like Kabaka birthday runs, and Empango celebrations among others, all intended to give young people entitlements to their rights to play and have fun but also improve livelihood This has saved the country from experiencing rampant violent activities like it is in Kenya. Youths who don’t know that they have avenues for dialogue and engagement are dangerous. The reversal of government development strategic objectives as a result of violence which stunts the country’s welfare and economic growth should be condemned.

Furthermore, you will appreciate that ONC under the able leadership of Hajjat Hadijjah Namyalo decided to spend a chunk of State funds on poverty alleviation measures that suit millennials and Generation Z who may not be in a position to endure the processes of accessing PDM, Emyooga among others hence giving them young people an alternative.

Similarly, the public ought to appreciate the President for directing the State House to be a centre of reconnaissance in shaping the future of youths through industrial skills and Vocation which is intended to make youths job creators, not seekers. This programme together with Skilling the Boy and Girl Child helps to make youths attain relevant skills needed in the job market which makes young people multitasking and holistic. These programs also help to increase innovative industrial skills which empower the population to start up small-scale industries which is more productive for the economy. These skills not only help to reduce insecurity but arming youths with relevant skills in welding, and motor mechanics among others hence making our young people globally competitive with qualifications which leads them to get work passes to work abroad and increase foreign exchange.

Generally, we thank President Yoweri Museveni for his foresight and Vision for being intentional in prioritising and positioning the young people. We also thank him for funding the ONC wealth creation program where we are able to donate self-empowerment tools to disadvantaged youths across the country with start-up capital where thousands of youths groups have received items including sawing machines, welding machines, agricultural inputs, grinding machines among others which has enabled young people to remain focused to fight poverty than being used by people with selfish agendas.

In conclusion, Technical Vocational Education and training will help to address the challenges of Generation Z and millennials through creating employable skills and competencies relevant to the national transformation of our labour market as opposed to just the acquisition of education. The revolts by the youths in Kenya are a wake-up call for our leaders in the region to continue planning for our young people in order to combat their negative consequences.

The writer is the Head of Research at Office of the National Chairman

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